Nora didn’t know why she was there.
She had lain on Benny’s living room floor crying until he came out, maybe an hour later, and had asked her to go home. She had started begging afresh but he’d only repeated his words that he was done with her. And with the finality of his tone ringing in her head, she’d somehow managed to stumble out of his apartment and had managed to drive herself all the way back home without killing herself.
She still felt the temptation to just throw herself into the path of a fast coming vehicle. Or to drive her car into an oncoming trailer.
Her life was over and she knew it. There was no future for her anymore. What kind of future would there be? The man her entire family was waiting for to come pay her bride price in barely two months had, by her own fault entirely, just left her.
What would she tell her father?
What will her brothers… her cousins, her entire family say?
Benny was loved by them all. His generosity had been felt by everyone in her family. He had done more for her than all the men she’d ever dated put together. And now because she couldn’t restrain her passions like a good woman, she’d betrayed him and had lost him.
Dear God, what an unbearable shame! Nora blinked back the tears in her eyes, wiped off those that have slid down her cheeks, and pushing open the car door, got down. She wasn’t entirely sure why she wanted to see Tim. But she wanted to… needed to. All of this had started with his return into her life and his persistence that he felt something for her. She just needed to know what his plans were now that everything had come out in the open.
She walked into the hotel and started straight for his private suite on the third floor. She’d called him after work and though there’d been a certain hesitation in his voice, he’d agreed that they should meet.
Nora inhaled, rubbed her hand down her face to scrub off any sign of crying, and then knocked on the door. It took less than a minute to open and her eyes widened with shock at the sight of Tim’s fiancée, Sharon, holding open the door.
“Come right in.” Sharon stared coldly at the curvy woman in midnight-blue peplum dress. Was it her voluptuous figure that had made Tim gone after her… again? Feeling the fresh sting of pain and hurt, she gestured and stepped away from the door. “Don’t worry, Tim is here. I’m just playing the doorman. Or would it be doormat?”
Nora looked over her shoulders and saw Tim. He was staring helplessly and apologetically at her. That was why he’d sounded hesitant on the phone, his fiancée had been there. And she probably had asked him to agree to the meeting. Nora didn’t need a confirmation to know that he’d told her everything.
She swallowed the flood of shame that washed over her and returned her gaze to meet the disdainful stare of the other woman. “I’m sorry I wasn’t expecting…”
“That I would be here?” Sharon interrupted, hating her. Wishing she had the power to pour curses upon her. “You expected him to be alone, just like he’d always been every time you left your own man to come and screw mine.”
“Sharon… please!” Tim felt like the lowest of all God’s creatures. He could see the shame and pain in Nora’s eyes. And he could hear the pain and anger in Sharon’s voice. He had brought these two women pain and for what? Because he couldn’t control his desire for sex?
“Oh, pardon me for using a bad word, Tim. I forgot your term—it was just sex.” And because the sound of a door opening echoed, she grabbed hold of Nora’s hand and pulled her into the room. Refusing to allow her slink away before she was done with her. “That was his words—it meant nothing. It was just sex. You were nothing to him. Just a body, cheaply made available so he could satisfy his crave for sex.”
Tears rolled down Nora’s cheeks. She didn’t doubt that Sharon was repeating words Tim must have said to her. The guilt in Tim’s eyes was confirmation enough. “I am sorry.” What else could she say to a woman she’d probably ruined her relationship? “I am sorry I debased myself so much to the point of falling cheaply for Tim’s lies. I was a fool and I am now paying the price for my foolishness. I am sorry I came here today… I don’t even know why I did.”
“You came here because you probably wanted to demand that he leaves me for you!” Sharon flung at her. God, she so hated when people were guilty and they start using tears as a weapon to make you feel guilty in their stead. “What kind of a woman are you? What kind of a woman leaves her fiancée to run after her ex? I met him again just a couple of weeks back… he was buying a gift for you and the girls there were so full of envy. How could you leave a man like that, just so you can have sex with my own fiancée?”
“Stop pleasing me!” She spun around and faced Tim. Her anger more at him for having betrayed her. “You had me but you wanted her. You forgot all of your promises because you wanted a few minutes of pleasure with her. Well, go ahead… take her! Take her over to the bed and continue your sex escapades with her!”
“Stop it, Sharon! Keep your voice down for heaven’s sake!” Tim felt his anger rising.
He’s spent all night begging her—had continued to do so after leaving their house. And had begged her to come here instead of going to her office so they could resolve the issue. But instead of the forgiveness he’d been banking on, she seemed hell bent on escalating matters.
“I have apologised to you. I have told you repeatedly it was a mistake. But it wasn’t just a mistake on my part alone… we both made a mistake.” He looked at Nora. She was crying softly by the door. “We both dredged up feelings that we’ve buried in the past and allowed ourselves to succumb to them.”
“It was a mistake, wasn’t it, Tim?” Nora raised tearful eyes to regard the man she’d mortgaged her entire future for. “He is right, Sharon, it was all a mistake. And I made the biggest mistake of all. Indeed how could I leave such a good man for… for Tim. I ruined my entire life for a few minutes of hidden, shameful pleasure. I thought my heart felt something, but the reality is that it was my body… my insatiable thirst for something as insignificant as sex that brought me to this place. It was my momentary belief that what was was more important than what is and what will be.”
She shifted her eyes to Sharon. Disgust still glared from the other woman’s eyes. Nora allowed it to scourge her. She deserved it. “Please do not allow my mistake to ruin your life too. I am sorry. I truly am. Maybe one day, you will learn to forgive me. I swear to you that I will never again contact Tim and I won’t allow him to contact me.” She turned her eyes to look at the man she knew was undeserving of the woman he was engaged to. “I am indeed a fool for I allowed you to destroy me twice. May God forgive us both.”
And without another word, she turned and walked out of the suite.
With her gone, Sharon turned to Tim. She suddenly felt exhausted. “You won’t believe this but I feel sorry for her. I think she traded gold for clay.” She walked to the sofa and lifted her handbag. “I’m going home.”
“Sharon, don’t go like this. I still love you. This was just a one-time mistake.” Tim felt panic rise inside of him. “Don’t let’s throw away all that we’ve built together over one mistake, please.”
“You are the one who threw aside all that we’ve built together, Tim.” Sharon suddenly wondered if she ever really knew him. “Are you not concerned about her? You went after her. Maybe she should have known better, but it was your going after her that led her into this. Yet you don’t seem to care about her anymore.”
Sharon shook her head. “Does it not occur to you that her fiancé might not have forgiven her after catching you two together yesterday?”
“I am sorry for having brought us all to this place but at this moment I can only beg for your forgiveness and pray that you give it.”
He didn’t care. He was so self-centred that he didn’t care what might happen to the woman he’d broken his promises to her with. The realisation made Sharon look at him with new eyes. “I don’t know if I can forgive you, Tim. I don’t know if I can.”
“Our wedding is just two and half months away.” Tim strode forward and took her hands. He didn’t want to lose her. “Baby, we can’t just call it off and throw everything away. Please forgive me. Give me one more chance to show you how much I love you.”
Did he really love her? Sharon wasn’t sure anymore. And she couldn’t just call of their wedding as he’d pointed out. There were more people involved than just the two of them. Besides, her wedding dress was almost ready. Many of the invitation cards had been sent out. Their bans were already being called in Church. And—what would her parents say?
“I have to go, Tim.” She needed to go home and think. “We’ll talk later.”
She slipped her hands from his, walked to the door and then through it.
They were at her father’s house. In her father’s living room. Instead of the usual gaiety that accompanied these visits, the atmosphere was rent with regret and sorrow. It was a week since everything has happened and Benny has now come to formally announce his disinterest in marrying her.
“I have heard all you said my son and I can only bow my head in shame as I apologise to you.” Her father’s voice was grave as he spoke. “I would like to beg you to forgive my daughter and still keep her as your own, but I am a man and I know when a man has been tried beyond the limit he can bear.”
He paused, looked at Nora who had her head buried in her laps, crying. He shook his head. “I cannot even believe that it is my own daughter who has done this shameful thing. It must indeed be an act committed in a repeated state of senselessness. God forbid that it repeats itself!”
He snapped his fingers to reject the bad omen before returning his gaze on Benny. “I am grateful, my son, that you chose to do this quietly and without bringing shame upon my family. Shame is inevitable though because the cancelation of her traditional marriage and wedding will still cause gossip. Still, you did well. You have always done well. You took us all as your family and treated us like family. May God heal the pain I know my daughter has brought upon you.”
“Amen, Papa.” Benny looked at the old man he’d come to regard as a second father and wished for his sake, he could forgive and forget Nora’s betrayal. “Papa, I hope that this will not make us enemies. I have great respect for you and for your family, and hope that we can continue to relate well despite this sad occurrence.”
“Ewo! The son of a great man is a great man himself.” Nora’s father shook his head as his face writhed with sorrow. “I have lost myself a great son-in-law, but it is well.”
He rose and extended his right hand. When Benny rose and took it, he drew him closer. “I will forever see you as a son. You have not wronged us so why should we not relate well with you? It is we, who have wronged you. The sin of my daughter is inadvertently my own sin. Maybe her mother and I failed somewhere, who knows. But you will always be welcomed in this home and I would always think of you as my son.”
“Thank you, Papa.” Benny dipped his head in respect before the old man. “I will be on my way now. Thank you for all your understanding.”
“God be with you and give you a great woman one day, my son.”
And after he left, the old man turned to his daughter. “Nora, why did you allow Satan to build a home inside of you?”
Nora fell to her knees before her father. “Papa, I don’t know. I don’t know oh!”
Her father shook his head. “For the first time since your mother’s demise, I am glad she’s gone. For her heart would not have been able to bear this shame and sorrow. Her gentle heart wouldn’t have been able to withstand it. Why would you do this, Nora? Your mother was a woman of great virtue… everyone knew her for her virtuous ways. She came into my house pure and she remained only touched by me until she died. Chai! You have not acted like one from her womb and of my seed… mba! A woman engaged is as good as married and must conduct herself thus. What were you looking for in another man?”
“I don’t know oh! Papa please forgive me! Please forgive me for this shame I’ve brought on you all.” Nora crawled to her father’s legs and held onto it. “Do not disown me or reject me. Pity me… look with pity upon me, Papa.”
Tears gathered in the old man’s eyes but like a man he blinked them away. “I cannot disown my own daughter. You’re my daughter and will forever remain one. A parent must whip with one hand and draw closer with another. Get up.” He bent, took her hand and dragged her up. “Wipe your tears. What has been done has been done. We cannot undo it and tears and cries of woe cannot change it. Only true repentance is now left. That is all that is left for you, my daughter. Come, let us go inside.”
As they walked inside Nora remembered her mother’s favourite maxim—forbidden fruit is sweet but the aftermath is most often bitter.
She had eaten the forbidden fruit and now she was left with the bitter after-taste of it in her mouth.